High Street Hardship

Bread queue in London from BBC websiteToo much talk is going on lately about how we can’t afford to buy stuff. This is driving me bonkers. In the Seventies we had to queue up to buy bread and there was a rule of only one loaf per family. How on earth would today’s families cope with that? There’d be a public outcry with people complaining that the government should do something. Actually, the reason for the shortage of bread was a bakers’ strike, but there were all sorts of other shortages and people just didn’t buy the number of non-edible consumables that they do today.

Many people then didn’t have one car, let alone two. If you had a fridge that was good, and very few families owned a freezer. One TV for the whole family was the norm, situated in the living room. Kids who had TVs in their bedrooms were considered spoiled. There wasn’t such a thing as a games console, but when personal computers started appearing, they would also be used in the family main room – generally because you had to hook them up to the TV to use as monitor. I remember laughing when I found out my Gran had got a little black and white portable TV for her kitchen. It seemed completely crazy.

We didn’t have carpet upstairs. It was this awful green ancient lino that was brittle and had holes in it. Under the green it was black, and the edges of the holes were black soft plastic stuff a bit like tar. Where the holes were the floorboards showed through and you’d get splinters if you went around in bare feet. I was about fourteen when I first had carpet in my bedroom and it seemed an amazing luxury, yet this is something we take for granted now.

Our infants’ school uniform was gingham, bloody horrible gingham. My mum bought yards of the stuff and made dresses for us all from the same pattern. We had pants and socks new but everything else came in large bin bags from Gran, where she’d got all her friends in the village to donate their children’s cast-offs. I remember going shopping for clothes for the first time with my Mum when I was about twelve, to the market and I had my first ever pair of jeans.

Let’s face it, the people who are suffering in this credit crunch are not the people who have stopped buying all this junk. They (we) don’t need it, don’t know we need it until the advertisers tell us we do. We can easily do without it. The people who are suffering are the retailers and manufacturers of the junk, who have got used to a certain level of goods sold. They are going to have to find something else to do with their business instead of being purveyors of trash. Perhaps they could go and work as farmers or doctors or something more useful?

Next time I hear someone complaining because they can’t afford the latest gadget or clothes that are ‘in season’ I’m going to scream. Really scream. And then I’ll be locked up. But at least I won’t have to listen to spoilt Thatcher-generation whiners.


Josie Henley-Einion, author, blogger, Legend in my own Living Room

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